On Tuesday, December 1, 2009 a press conference was held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville to update the condition of the 84 horses following the arrest of two Cannon County men on Animal Cruelty charges last week.
Cannon County Sheriff Billy Nichols stated that the case began November 19 when a concerned citizen reported the starving animals to the Sheriff’s Department. Deputy Anthony Young began the investigation which later escalated in the rescue effort on Tuesday, November 24. The rescue operation combined the work of many agencies, Bruce Steelman from the Cannon County Extension Office, Agent Phil Fedun with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Livestock Division, US Humane Society Tennessee State Director Leighann McCollum and the many volunteers.
“I want to thank all the volunteers who have helped in any way with this rescue operation. We had volunteers transport 15 trailer loads of the horses from the scene to the Fairgrounds,” said Sheriff Nichols. “This operation would have been a huge financial burden for Cannon County if not for the assistance of the volunteer donations and the help of the Humane Society.”
Arrested on the farm at 11390 Jim Cummings Highway were Charles Clint Howland and Charles Eugene Howland. Each posted a $1,500 bond and was released from custody. They will appear in General Sessions Court before Judge Susan Melton on Tuesday, December 8 at 9:00 A.M. Additional charges may be included as the case continues.
Scotlund Haisley, Senior Director of Emergency Service for the US Humane Society addressed the large number of press and interested citizens that attended. “We are in the process of fattening up the horses,” said Haisley. “This began as a rescue effort for 84 horses and later turned into a life saving effort. It’s miraculous that we’ve had as many survivors as we’ve had this far. The animals will be dispersed when they are ready and good homes are found.”
According to Haisley, the animals have received round the clock care since arriving at the Fairgrounds shelter. He stated the effort still needs certified veterinarian technicians, halters and lead ropes and corral panels.
“We only lost one animal, a mule,” said Haisley. “I want to thank the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, Tractor Supply Company for feed and other donations, the Tennessee Equine Hospital and the Franklin Equine Hospital. Their help has been outstanding and without them and the many volunteers that have helped in this effort a lot more of the animals would have died.
Hailsey estimated that the total cost of the rescue operation will reach $250,000. He stated that $3,000 to $4,000 will be spent on each animal. “We have collected photographs and veterinarian reports for each animal, all of which will be turned over to the District Attorney next week. This has turned into the largest horse rescue in Tennessee history.”
“The Humane Society of the United States is extremely grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support that has allowed us to successfully rescue and care for these 84 neglected horses,” said Leighann McCollum.
Also in attendance at the media conference was State Rep. Janis Sontany of Nashville. Rep. Sontany stated she plans to draft a bill designed to include starvation of any animal as a felony statute. Currently only dogs and cats are included in the felony statute for starvation.
John Wendler of Tractor Supply Company in Brentwood stated more feed and bedding should arrive for the animals on Tuesday. He also presented a check for $5,000 to the Humane Society. “To see what has happened to these animals is just painful,” said Wendler.
Also in attendance at the press conference was Sheriff’s Investigator Charlie Wilder, who also answered questions for the media in attendance. Sheriff’s Department members participating in the investigation and subsequent arrest of the two men in the case include: Sheriff Nichols, Investigators Charlie Wilder and Vance Walker, Deputies Anthony Young, Brad Hall, Reed Bryson, Alan Morse, Grady George, Jr.